The Woe of Stumbling Blocks

Intro: Have you ever been a stumbling block? 1st occurrence of the words “stumbling block” in the Bible) Lev 19:14 – “You shall not curse the deaf, nor put a stumbling block before the blind, but shall fear your God: I am the LORD.” God had commanded all the people to assemble and listen as the Levites read the blessings and curses of the Law. Six tribes were assembled on Mt. Gerizim, – all prepared to say amen to the blessings; and six on Mt Ebal who cried amen to the cursings. We would all have said amen with them to this one. No one here has ever violated this law. Who would place a stumbling block in front of a blind person?

I. Woe of Stumbling Blocks Matthew 18:1-7 “At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Who then is greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” And He called a child to Himself and set him before them, and said, “Truly I say to you, unless you are converted and become like children, you shall not enter the kingdom of heaven.”Whoever then humbles himself as this child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. “And whoever receives one such child in My name receives Me; but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to stumble, it is better for him that a heavy millstone be hung around his neck, and that he be drowned in the depth of the sea. “Woe to the world because of {its} stumbling blocks! For it is inevitable that stumbling blocks come; but woe to that man through whom the stumbling block comes!

A. Jesus turned the discussion from an actual child to a spiritual child of God, one who believed in Him (v. 6). There is contained here a stern admonition against “offending” (KJV) a child of God. This offending is not upsetting another or causing anger, but is defined in the context as causing another to commit sin – to stumble in their walk of faith. (NAS – causes to stumble; NIV – causes to sin)

1. The word here is “skandalon” – originally was “the name of the part of a trap to which the bait is attached, hence, the trap or snare itself …In NT skandalon is always used metaphorically, and ordinarily of anything that arouses prejudice, or becomes a hindrance to others, or causes them to fall by the way. (from Vine’s Expository Dictionary of Biblical Words)

II. The Source of Stumbling Blocks: In the context of Matthew 18, there seems to be one clear attitude that illicit Jesus’ admonition:

A. PRIDE – What is involved here? This pride, “Who is the greatest?” is displayed among the disciples through their self-promotion. Read entire slide

1. James and John request the choicest seats of power in the kingdom in Mark 10:37 “They said to Him, “Grant us that we may sit, one on Your right hand and the other on Your left, in Your glory.” Notice the reaction of the other disciples to their request: Mark 10:41 And when the ten heard it, they began to be greatly displeased with James and John.” As each one sought a place of prominence they placed a stumbling block in the path of the others by promoting envy.

a. It was the song of the people praising David that created the envy in Saul’s heart. Paul reminds us in 1 Cor. 13 that love does not envy, but also that love “does not parade itself” and “is not puffed up”. When I insist on promoting myself I can cause others to fall into sin.

2. My pride can also create a stumbling block for others when I place my position above the welfare of my brother’s soul. Romans 14:13-15 Therefore let us not judge one another anymore, but rather resolve this, not to put a stumbling block or a cause to fall in our brother’s way. I know and am convinced by the Lord Jesus that there is nothing unclean of itself; but to him who considers anything to be unclean, to him it is unclean. Yet if your brother is grieved because of your food, you are no longer walking in love. Do not destroy with your food the one for whom Christ died.” 1 Cor8:8-11 “But food does not commend us to God; for neither if we eat are we the better, nor if we do not eat are we the worse. But beware lest somehow this liberty of yours become a stumbling block to those who are weak. For if anyone sees you who have knowledge eating in an idol’s temple, will not the conscience of him who is weak be emboldened to eat those things offered to idols? And because of your knowledge shall the weak brother perish, for whom Christ died? But when you thus sin against the brethren, and wound their weak conscience, you sin against Christ. Therefore, if food makes my brother stumble, I will never again eat meat, lest I make my brother stumble.”

B. WEALTH (read slide) – Paul told Timothy that “the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows” (1 Tim. 6:10)

        •  Jesus warned his disciples as much about the threat of money as any other danger. Certainly this is a threat to us today.

1. Expectations: The issue of money divides homes & discontentment leads to overextension through the availability of credit. Your expectations and judgments may lead another Christian to place too much importance and energy into making more money.

2. Discontent: is a disease which is not curable by things; “He who loves silver will not be satisfied by silver; Nor he who loves abundance, with increase” (Eccl. 5:10). If you cannot be happy in a small home, neither will you be happy in a large one. If you cannot be happy with one car, neither will you be happy with two. Wives, don’t set that stumbling block before your husbands; children, don’t set that stumbling block before your parents.

3. Ezekiel foretold of a time when Israel would finally see the impotence of their wealth – When God would judge them. Ezek 7:19 “They will throw their silver into the streets, and their gold will be like refuse; their silver and their gold will not be able to deliver them in the day of the wrath of the LORD; they will not satisfy their souls, nor fill their stomachs, because it became their stumbling block of iniquity.”

C. COMPROMISE – Peter warned those who would follow in the “way of Balaam” in 2 Peter 2. . 2 Pet 2:15 They have forsaken the right way and gone astray, following the way of Balaam the son of Beor, who loved the wages of unrighteousness;” vs. 18-19 “For when they speak great swelling words of emptiness, they allure through the lusts of the flesh, through lewdness, the ones who have actually escaped from those who live in error. While they promise them liberty, they themselves are slaves of corruption; for by whom a person is overcome, by him also he is brought into bondage.”

        • Balaam (the O.T. prophet) became an infamous example of one who caused others to sin because He was willing to compromise the message of God for a profit

1. William Baur writes in The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, “Here, of course, Balaam is the type of teacher of the church who attempts to advance the cause of God by advocating an unholy alliance with the ungodly and worldly, and so conforming the life of the church to the spirit of the flesh” (page 379). There is a constant temptation for the Christian to be conformed to the world around him. Those who are accommodating the work and worship of the church to what the “unchurched” want are modern day Balaams, causing the weak to stumble into sin.

2. The problem here can be called Worldliness – (a general term to describe the world’s influence on the behavior of the individual Christian. Do you talk, think, dress and act like your neighbor? If so you may be placing a stumbling block in the path of others.)

            • Do you place these stumbling blocks in the path of your children by what you watch on TV, or where you go? Do you say one thing and do another?

3. Peter led others into sin through his hypocrisy and desire to be accepted by others. Gal 2:11-13 Now when Peter had come to Antioch, I withstood him to his face, because he was to be blamed; 12 for before certain men came from James, he would eat with the Gentiles; but when they came, he withdrew and separated himself, fearing those who were of the circumcision. 13 And the rest of the Jews also played the hypocrite with him, so that even Barnabas was carried away with their hypocrisy.

D. An Unwillngness to Forgive: Luke 17:1-4Then He said to the disciples, “It is impossible that no offenses should come, but woe to him through whom they do come! 2 It would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were thrown into the sea, than that he should offend one of these little ones. 3 Take heed to yourselves. If your brother sins against you, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him. 4 And if he sins against you seven times in a day, and seven times in a day returns to you, saying, ‘I repent,’ you shall forgive him.”

The context of this similar statement by Jesus focuses on the need to provide personal forgiveness when our brother sins against us.

        • If he sins – rebuke him – to ignore his sin would only encourage more sin, and thus become a stumbling block.
        • If he repents – forgive him; to refuse to forgive would cause him to renounce his personal efforts to do better in the future. (reject God’s mercy) Paul told the Christians at Corinth that a failure to forgive the repentant fornicator would have cast him into the pit of overwhelming despair, 2 Cor. 2:6-7.
        • Jesus speaks directly to the repetitive nature of forgiveness. (17:4) as this is the type of circumstance that breeds resentment and bitterness, which completely sabotages the impact of God’s mercy.

III. How Do We Avoid Stumbling Blocks?

A. Cast It From You: Matt. 18:8-9 “If your hand or foot causes you to sin, cut it off and cast it from you. It is better for you to enter into life lame or maimed, rather than having two hands or two feet, to be cast into the everlasting fire. “And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and cast it from you. It is better for you to enter into life with one eye, rather than having two eyes, to be cast into hell fire.Whatever obstacle troubles you in particular is expendable; Whether it is canceling the cable or finding new friends – it is taking extreme measures to overcome an extreme temptation.

B. Be seasoned with fire…prepared to suffer for the cause: Mark 9:49-50“For everyone will be seasoned with fire, and every sacrifice will be seasoned with salt. 50 Salt is good, but if the salt loses its flavor, how will you season it? Have salt in yourselves, and have peace with one another.”

        • This is a difficult verse, but I see it as connected with Jesus’ statements about being stumbling block in Mark. 9 (same context as Luke 17.) Jesus is referencing the practice of salting a sacrifice before it was offered. The apostles and others, were going to be offered as sacrifices to God through the suffering they were getting ready to endure. This “fire” was the salting that God had planned. They had be ready to be tested (The NLT says tested by fire in v. 49) by fire. If not they could be a stumbling block to those who they would teach.
        • suffering for Christ helps rid us of our pride, our attachment to wealth; our desire to approved by men, and compromise the truth; and our unwillingness to forgive others.

Conclusion:Woe to the world because of offenses! For offenses must come, but woe to that man by whom the offense comes!

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